Former Indian cricketer Chetan Chauhan brings the same acumen as an administrator. His food too reflects his taste
He has tasted success at the highest level yet remained modest. Cricket was his passion and he made it big by playing 40 Test matches with some memorable association with Sunil Gavaskar. Politics was an attraction too and twice he represented Amroha in Lok Sabha. He has stayed in touch with the game. Chetan Chauhan continues to demonstrate the indefatigable spirit that marked his cricket.
Chauhan is a “young” 64-year-old workaholic. “I can't sit idle,” he asserts as we meet for lunch at Café On 3, a 24x7 coffee shop at the Double Tree By Hilton, on the doorstep of Noida.
It has been a busy morning. It always is, especially when there is cricket on at the Ferozeshah Kotla. “Busy days actually,” he scans the list for soft drinks. “Water melon juice please,” he makes a request.
The Indian Premier League (IPL) takes a toll on the players. “And administrators too,” he says firmly. Chauhan's transition from player to administrator was smooth. His debut (1969) and farewell (1981) Tests came against New Zealand. “Couldn't stay away from the game and took to administration.”
It has been an enjoyable journey for Chauhan, who aggregated 2084 runs in Tests and 11,143 in 179 first-class matches. He was known for his guts and unflinching patience. With Gavaskar as company, he figured in 10 century-plus opening partnerships.
Reflecting on role as an administrator, Chauhan notes, “It helps if you have played the game. You know the nitty-gritty of the requirement of the players and the solution to their problems. You also tend to communicate better. I always had respect for my seniors and I now get respect from the juniors. The bond is there, the cricketing bond. Plus I make myself easily accessible by telling them I am a player first and then an administrator.”
A repeat of “water melon” and Chauhan asks, “Can we order food?” The menu appears with an elaborate offering. But he has decided what he is going to savour. “I want butter chicken, yellow daal, bhindi fry and rotis. It should not be spicy please,” he reminds the chef.
Chauhan was involved in many stirring battles with fast bowlers but the epic 213 with Gavaskar against England at The Oval was an outstanding story for all times to come. It broke the 203 by Vijay Merchant and Mushtaq Ali at Old Trafford in1936. India drew both the Tests.
“I remember every ball (of that partnership). I and Sunny (Gavaskar) had opened in Vizzy Trophy (1967). We struck an instant understanding. He was a tremendous player. He had amazing technique, concentration, hunger for runs, unflinching nerves and great patience. No amount of sledging could disturb him. I loved the way he left the ball. He would always confide in me and never hesitated to check if he was making any mistake. He could play all the shots. We have been great friends.”
Chauhan takes a break as lunch is served. The chicken is “delightful” and the daal “outstanding.” The “lovely” bhindi too is dealt with. He recalls, “During playing days we hardly would have breakfast or lunch. So, dinner used to be my main meal. I love vegetarian and non-vegetarian both. In fact, I can eat anything but not spicy.” He is careful these days. “With age I have cut down. I am not a foodie now.” In fact, he prefers carrying home-cooked food to work and matches.
Chauhan has served the game in different roles – player, coach, manager, selector, administrator and now a media expert. “It's been a great journey. I started with a match fee of Rs.20 (in 1967) and ended with Rs.400 per match (in 1985). I have dealt with pressures from within and outside the set-up but always backed players on merit. I don't miss my cricket engagements and manage time for my office too (Coral Newsprints Limited). I keep the evening for my family as much as possible.”
For all his success, he remained grounded. “I cook once in awhile for my family. Can make chapattis (get the right shape after three tries). I make my own tea every morning.” The cell phone has been ringing constantly. He takes the call. “Haan, haan, Aa raha hoon (I am coming),” he promises. Time for him to rush to the Ferozeshah Kotla.